Playing at Nation: Soccer Institutions, Racial Ideology, and National Integration in Argentina, 1912-1931 Public Deposited

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  • June 6, 2022
  • Richey, Jeffrey William
    • Affiliation: College of Arts and Sciences, Department of History
  • It is well documented that in no other Latin American country has a single urban center so dominated national life as in the case of Argentina and its capital, Buenos Aires (Brennan and Pianetto). The uneven distribution of political, cultural, and economic power between Buenos Aires and the so-called Interior has created a bifurcated nationhood that remains one of the central tensions in Argentine history and historiography. Departing from this paradigm of a bifurcated nationhood, two overarching questions guide this dissertation: how did exclusivist narratives of racial identity come to be accepted by a racially diverse national population? And second, why, in a multi-cultural and multi-ethnic country such as Argentina, did racial division come to feature heavily in discourses of national identity during a period in which other Latin American countries were emphasizing ideas of racial and cultural inclusiveness? I answer these questions by examining the popularization of Argentine soccer between 1912 and 1931. Combining a cultural analysis of popular media with a concrete study of Argentine soccer institutions, I argue that during this period soccer became a key vehicle for Argentine politicians, intellectuals, and players to widely disseminate a version of cultural nationhood that excluded non-European elements of the national population. I argue that through soccer competitions, Buenos Aires became fixed in the national consciousness as modern and white vis-à-vis the Interior, and vis-à-vis the rest of Latin America, which together became solidified in the Argentine consciousness as mixed-race and backward. In the first decades of the twentieth century no other event or performance of the time transgressed so many regional boundaries and brought so many Argentines into contact--corporeal or imagined--with one another than soccer. It is through these initial encounters--physical and discursive--that foundational formulations of national identity were propagated by an influential sports press eager to project an image of a capital city that was modern, advanced, and, above all, white. At the same time, soccer also provided an important platform for Argentines from the Interior to formulate an influential, long-lasting alternative nationhood that validated non-European cultures in explicit contra-distinction to Buenos Aires--notions of regional identity still influential today.
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  • Chasteen, John Charles
  • Doctor of Philosophy
Graduation year
  • 2013

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